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How to decorate with French flair

An antique dresser with French décor accents.

An antique dresser with French décor accents. Credit: © Ginger Sanders/Dreamstime

It's hard to deny the style and décor sensibilities of French style. Steeped in grace and color, French style is timeless and brings a worldly sophistication to any décor. No matter whether you've never traveled to France or you have been there many times, adding a French touch to your rooms is easy with just a few style guidelines.

Sophisticated elegance

French apartments and homes exude a simplicity and grandeur in one fell swoop. With the backdrop of a French apartment, filled with elegant, tall windows and plenty of architectural detail, it's hard to make a decorative miss. There's a key element to any French home, and that's the emphasis on both large and small details, such as trim. Thick moldings are often matched with delicate ones, and many times highlighted in gold. Adding trim to walls is an easy way to build in French charm.


The shining hallmark of French design is its sparkle. Rooms are often a study in delicate elements that shine. From beautiful chandeliers and sconces that drip with cut crystals to touches of gold, French homes positively glimmer. Look for places to add crystal elements, such as a vase, or adorning a hall sconce with faceted crystals to sparkle when they're lit. Bring up the light and shine by adding gold elements, such as vases, or golden candle holders to add a touch of warmth. Look for areas of trim, such as the insets of doors, that can be gilded with gold paint to add a gleaming touch to your home's architecture. In the bathroom, a gold faucet set dresses up a powder bathroom and gives it the luxe appeal of a Parisian hotel.


Both stunning, and creating a bridge between the centuries, is the melding of contemporary elements with classical style that serve to anchor the past with the present. An oversized contemporary painting has amazing contrast on a wall with delicate moldings and trim detail. Adding something contemporary, like a midcentury sofa, to your French décor is a tasteful way to create a distinctively Parisian look. It's the ability to mix styles so effortlessly that makes a room have a French flair.

Thoroughly detailed

Just as in the cuisine, the French focus in design is in the detail. It's the little touches that pull a room together. Luxurious fabrics such as damask prints and velvet are all something to be expected in a French-inspired home. Delicate trims on curtains and upholstery pieces help add that special something that designates a look as French. A current trend now is caning. Caned chairs add a very French touch to any room. Consider a caned bench to add Parisian flavor to your foyer or at the foot of the bed. Don't forget drapes. Drapes add a soft touch to a bedroom or living room and are often pulled back with tie-backs to frame the window elegantly. Color is also distinctive in French design. There are no half measures with color, and rooms may often be awash in a particular hue, or a color is used to make a dramatic accent. One thing that you won't find is beige room. Color itself is used as a design feature, and it's this attention to the aesthetic that marks French style.


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